European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said EU foreign ministers have agreed to continue and increase their military support for Ukraine and to study a new package of sanctions targeting Russian individuals and certain sectors of the Russian economy.
Borrell told reporters late Wednesday after convening a special ministerial meeting in New York that the details of the sanctions package still need to be determined by EU representatives, but that he is sure there will be unanimous support.
He said it was important for the ministers to meet and send a “powerful message” on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of his country’s military reserves, and that Putin is “trying to destroy Ukraine.”
Borrell said that in addition to “the immense suffering brought by the Russian aggression upon the Ukrainian people, Russia has chosen to further extend the cost of war also for their own Russian population.”
He said Putin’s apparent reference to Russia’s willingness to use nuclear weapons if necessary to protect itself represented “an irresponsible and cynical attempt to undermine our steadfast support to Ukraine.”
“These threats jeopardize in an unprecedented scale international peace and security,” Borrell said. “But they will not shake our determination. They will not shake our resolve, our unity to stand by Ukraine and our comprehensive support to Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty as long as it takes.”
Putin said in a televised address Wednesday the mobilization of reserves, which followed Ukrainian gains in a counteroffensive in northeastern Ukraine, is necessary to protect Russia’s homeland and sovereignty.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military would be calling up 300,000 reservists.
Putin said the West is trying to weaken and destroy Russia, and that his country will “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
“In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line,” he said. “This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
Putin also reiterated Russia’s goal in its now seven-month-old invasion of Ukraine is to “liberate” Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, saying the people there do not want to be part of Ukraine.
The separatist leaders of the Moscow-controlled Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the Donbas said Tuesday they are planning to hold votes starting Friday for the territories to declare themselves as part of Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed what he called “Russia’s attempts to stage new sham referenda.”
“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday. “Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.”
Since early September, Kyiv’s forces have swiftly recaptured large swaths of land in the Kharkiv region of northeast Ukraine that Russian troops took over in the early weeks of the war. The Russian-occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine and the partly occupied Zaporizhzhia region are also voting on becoming part of Russia.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.